Thoughts before I hit play:
This is it, folks. This is the one we’ve been waiting for. As a psych major, all I ever do is talk to people about the shit that happened when they were a kid to make them the fucked up adult that they are. It only seems right that the natural progression for the Texas Chainsaw series does the same to give us some insight into what made Leatherface/Jedidiah so evil in the first place.
Because I know you’re all curious, here’s my version of Leatherface’s origin story.
Jedidiah Sawyer was born into a normal family. He had an older brother, a hardworking father and a stay at home mother. They all live within relatively close distance to their grandparents and other relatives, leaving a blurred line as there always is when it comes to this family, as to whether or not incest was involved in the pairing of Jed’s parents.
Something traumatic happens to Jed’s mother. Drayton is devastated and doesn’t know how to cope besides the way his family always has, keep them around, sitting in their favorite chair, drinking the blood of innocent victims in an attempt to keep them around longer so the memory of them never fades.
The older brother (thus far unnamed and only referred to as Chop Top or the hitchhiker) goes manic, unable to process his feelings, he compartmentalizes them and allows Drayton to tell him how his life should be lived from that moment on. Thanks to the unbelievable measures Drayton takes to revive a wife that is already long gone, he’s left to make a family work with one manic son and another, younger son who is mentally challenged.
Then something clicks. One day, Jed comes home from school, having accidentally severed the hand of a classmate that tried to lay a hand on a cousin that also attends his public school. He’s kicked out and the family is banned from ever having their children properly educated, so Drayton takes matters into his own hands. He teaches them to work; to make money; to survive.
Drayton likely worked at the local slaughterhouse and was fired when the death of his wife made every day tasks unbearable. So he’s forced to use the skills he learned there; the only skills he has. to support the family that has now been thrust upon him.
He sees potential in his boys and they start rough, their first family kill is sloppy but the meat is cut well enough to be an overnight success as far as their new BBQ gas station is concerned. After some time though, it raises suspicion. The town is on alert with rumors spreading like wildfire. Then one day, an intrepid cop or a curious townsperson arrives at the station after hours to investigate, sees the remains of the first body, and becomes the second victim, giving the boys more practice, and generating more meat/income for the family.
Leatherface is born out of pure necessity and blind devotion to a father left to lead a crumbling family out of poverty and shame under the Sawyer name. Since he’s mentally ill, he doesn’t know better than to simply kill what his brother and father tell him to.
That’s what I personally hope happens in this movie. If they fuck this one up, I’m going to be pretty upset. Especially because this is the last sequel/prequel for this series before the next two movies which seem to be remakes of the first film. For this film, we have only one returning crew member in Carl Mazzocone who worked on Texas Chainsaw 3D as a producer. Other than that, all the writers and directors are new. So we’ll just have to see what happens with this one. I’m incredibly nervous to watch it.
Synopsis: In a film slated as a direct prequel to the original film, we learn about the origins of Leatherface and how he became the manipulative, cunning, rage filled killer he is. You know, just like the one we’ve known the whole time. This one has a twist you won’t see coming!
If you’ve seen this movie, which I truly hope, if you see the good in Leatherface that I do, that you haven’t, you know that this movie was not at all like what I had hoped it would be.
I was literally nervous to watch this movie because I was so anxious to see how it was done. I wanted so badly to get the movie I wanted, the one that didn’t paint the guy as something evil, but rather someone turned evil thanks to their family, blurring the line between nature and nurture.
I’m not sure if you’ve read any of my stories, but a theme in a lot of them are “the true horror is how this person/thing/event makes the reader feel.” I’m all about the kind of horror that makes you question your own humanity and this series really had the chance to do that but completely failed. I can only imagine that the next few movies, both remakes of the first if I’m not mistaken, will only serve to do more harm than good, seeing as they came out around the time the Saw films did.
Having had to go back and check the dates on the fact I just wrote, I just realized that the movies I just watched for my last two reviews were made after the remakes, so I would be interested to see if those were influenced at all in the new ones, specifically because I’ve already heard that Leatherface is a different breed in the 2000’s remakes and he’s much more violent in the movie I’m reviewing today than he tended to be in the movies previous. Thanks to Wikipedia, I watched the movies out of order year wise but according to the chronology, I’m on the right track, so maybe there are pros and cons to both.
I don’t know, that all kinda just blew my mind a little bit and I can’t help but feel that it’s sullied the overall quality of this review.
I suppose there’s nothing to do but press on though, unless I become a time lord of some kind, there’s just no way to undo watching the last two movies before watching the remakes from the 2000’s. Maybe it’s a good thing I watched it now.
Anyway, let’s talk about the movie instead of having yet another existential crisis, shall we?
This movie opens at a birthday party. In true Sawyer fashion, there is a victim at the table joining the family for young Jed’s celebration. At the head, orchestrating the entire thing is Verna. You might remember her as the corpse from the last movie we watched. Therefore we understand that this film directly continues on from the last one and that the last one continued directly from the original. She’s supposedly the grandmother of Heather from the last film, making Jed her nephew, Drayton her son, and a mysterious daughter never mentioned Heather’s mother. As with all large family gatherings in this film, there is a blurred line between who’s all related to who as you don’t see any women besides Verna.
Verna then presents Jed with the first of two birthday presents, a chainsaw. The second present is revealed as Verna places the saw in his hands and directs him to kill the man squirming and screaming for his life tied to a kitchen chair.
Jed can’t do it, even after a push from Drayton sends the saw through the man’s leg. He drops the saw and attempts to flee, but Verna stops him and basically tells him that he’s a disappointment because family is always there for you no matter what.
We’re soon transported to a scene later on in Jed’s life where he’s likely been taught a few more lessons. A pair of teenagers, only one of which I could remember the name of; Betty, are making out in a car when come across a young boy with a dead cow’s head over his own (like a mask OMG). He lures Betty into the barn on his family’s property and she ends up falling through the floor in a trap set by Drayton, Jed, and his thus unnamed older brother.
Turns out Betty was a Hartman. Now, that name might sound familiar if you read/heard my last review. Hartman was the last name of the sheriff guy that also might not have been a sheriff from the last film. The Hartman in this movie is that guy’s dad and the events of this film detail what the whole deal is with all those sadistic Hartman assholes.
One thing I put in my notes at this point was that, thanks to the birthday scene and the barn scene, we learn that the Sawyers have been doing this for some time. After all, it was a right of passage for Jed to get is chainsaw. Thing is, if that’s the case, what were they doing with the bodies before the BBQ joint? I think there is an attempt to explain this at one point where a dirty cop is fed to some man eating pigs, but I don’t know how convinced I am there. Maybe they were feeding man eating pigs the people they killed, then turning those pigs into BBQ to later sell.
Thing is, and this is only a first few results on google bit of research here; pigs are onmivores and typically eat what is presented to them. I can’t imagine human meat has much nutrition in it though, so I’m not sure what kind of health effects human bodies might have on the pigs.
Even still, in the first film, the Sawyer home as well as in the gas station BBQ oven when Sally enters and sees for herself. No sign of pigs, no sign of anyone trying to hide what they were doing. There was every indication that the first Sawyers to think of serving people meat BBQ was Drayon and his boys.
I don’t know, maybe I missed something in the first movie, but it didn’t seem like the intention was to have a big, gross family of possible inbreeders that killed people for years without the entire town knowing about it. It feels like Texas Chainsaw 3D really messed up the atmosphere of the town when all those rednecks showed up with guns.
How can that many people be stupid enough not to notice screaming, crying, chainsaws, and a suspicious BBQ joint owned by the family behind it all? I was hoping this movie might explain where it all started; why the Sawyers killed in the first place. Being a born killer just isn’t at thing. Now I almost feel as if I need a movie about Verna and seeing as this is the last film in the series to date, it doesn’t seem like the appeal is there anymore and the entire series is just tired and done with.
Moving right along; at the crime scene for Betty, her father arrives, who also happens to be a sheriff type guy with no official sheriff title, at least as far as his IMDB credit states, gets all upset that he keeps running into the Sawyers at crime scenes and thinks something has got to be up.
In response to this thought train, he grabs the boys involved and ships them off to a mental hospital. Needless to say, Verna is not happy about this and does what she can to rescue her boys with the means she has necessary.
I literally don’t know what happened to Drayton, who seemed young enough at the time to have been brought to the hospital as well, or what happened to Jed’s brother. There’s no mention of anyone fitting the description of the guy that later turns out to be the hitchhiker/Chop Top aside from another young boy who looks to be a few years older that Jed, but he disappears after the barn scene and is never heard from again, even after Hartman swears to take all of Verna’s children to the hospital so they can be far away from her.
In the next scene, we’ve skipped ahead a few years and have officially met Lizzy, a new nurse at the hospital who is young, naive and spends most of this movie running away when she’s not supposed to.
We also meet Bud, a large boy with curly hair that reminds the audience immediately of Leatherface himself. Bud is barely verbal, yet another characteristic of our main villain, so he is introduced to Lizzy by another, more charming boy named Jackson.
Pretty soon, Lizzy is hit on by yet another patient, who’s name I wasn’t sure of until I read the credits; Ike. Lizzy does nothing to defend herself when Ike gets fresh, so Bud pushes him out of the way and Jackson beats the shit out of him before orderlies can break it up.
The next addition to the team is Ike’s girlfriend Clarice. I didn’t know that was her name until this very second because I don’t think I heard anyone say it at all in the film. In my notes, I referred to her as “smoking girl” because the first time we see her, she’s trying to get another patient to eat a baby rat and then tries to light up a cigarette in front of Lizzy. She’s told she can’t do that, tells Lizzy it’s for her anxiety, then never smokes ever again for the rest of the film.
Because the Doctor of the hospital, yes, for some reason, there is only one, thinks Bud was the offender in the fight from earlier, likely biased because of his size and the fact that he can’t speak up for himself, he’s given that classic electrode treatment that we just can’t seem to avoid when it comes to movies about mental hospitals, no matter the year.
Just as that’s going down though, Verna arrives and speaks with the doctor about wanting to see her son.
She doesn’t get the answer she had hoped for thanks to the doctor being a dickhead, so she sneaks into the hospital, pushes her way through a door that never gets locked, and starts a riot that allows most of the patients to escape, kill staff, and rampage through the hospital.
The team I introduced before, headed by an attempted Bonnie and Clyde pairing between Ike and Clarice, end up stealing a car and making their getaway. They basically kidnap Lizzy and Jackson, though I’m not really sure why considering they were all kinda trying to escape at that point, and put them in the trunk, then grab Bud as they take off because he helped rescue Ike, who was next in line for the electrode treatment, as the hospital fell into chaos. We then see Verna speaking with someone on the phone about updates on her son if any evidence of his whereabouts come to light, so we know there’s a dirty cop in Hartmans’ crew.
At one point, the rag tag team of teenagers meet up together and change clothes. Lizzy tries to run the second she’s out of the trunk, but they soon grab her and threaten the rest that if they try to run, they all die. This then becomes a theme because every time she gets the chance, Lizzy runs away without thinking of the consequences before she does it. I honestly thought she was going to be an awesome character, but she wasn’t. She just serves to be a love interest for Jackson, a girl to scream when things get scary, a nurse to make sure the gunshot Bud experiences doesn’t get infected, and someone to introduce all of the intense scenes by running places she shouldn’t instead of staying with the people that might not be trying to help her, but definitely have guns.
They hit up a BBQ restaurant, eat some food, shoot the place up, rob a bunch of people, and ditch, leaving a single witness that then tells “sheriff Hartman” all he needs to know to hunt down these kids.
The kids run out of gas in the car they stole, so they hunker down in a trailer they find as they’re walking through the woods. Some tense stuff happens between the characters here that serves as an attempt at getting to know them personally, but at this point, they all have a single trait that makes them just interesting enough to care about, but not enough to mourn their death when they die.
Clarice is mentally ill and is in love with Ike, Ike is just trying to do what he can to make sure he finds his family that keeps moving without telling him where they’re going, Lizzy runs away from things and is a nurse so the power dynamic is off even though she was a new hire the day they all escaped, Jackson has anger issues evidenced when he killed a nurse during the riot, but he also has a soft side evidenced in the way he keeps looking at Lizzy and the sympathy he holds for Bud. Bud is a big guy they all keep around for protection, although Jackson keeps saying he’s the only family he has. Not sure if that’s supposed to insinuate he’s the unnamed brother character or just that they grew close to each other as they lived at the hospital.
After a tussle in the woods between Lizzy (who, tried to run away in the middle of the night and was caught) and Ike (who doesn’t need her snitching on their location to get them sent back to the hospital) Lizzy is rescued by Jackson, Bud rescues Jackson, and Ike is knocked out and dragged into a field by Bud.
We watch Bud place his jaws around a rock and smash his head into it with his foot.
Clarice had apparently slept through the commotion from the night before and in the morning, she goes to search for Ike in the woods. Lizzy recommends she and Jackson take off, but since Bud is missing, Jackson refuses to run and instead they go look for Bud to make sure Clarice doesn’t kill him.
They find Bud sleeping on Ike’s bloodied corpse as if it’s a pillow in the middle of a field.
Clarice however, is discovered by the cops that then take over the woods after having found their deserted car and trailer.
Hartman tortures her for information and ends up killing her when she doesn’t comply. The rest of the men take off into the woods, hot on the trail of the other three.
I don’t know what’s going through Lizzy’s head at this point, but by now she’s with the two least threatening people in the group; Bud and Jackson. So, why, at the first sight of a cop car she waves the thing down for help is absolutely beyond me.
Bud, at this point, likely understanding the gravity of the situation, attacks the cop because he’s alone and, although he’s armed, Bud has withstood a bullet before and is willing to do what it takes to protect the family he now has.
During the attack, a bullet is sent through his head and he falls away off screen.
At this point, I was fairly certain, as any viewer might be having seen more scenes with Bud than with Jackson, having had an entire backstory scenario play out before me, having heard the name “Bud” mentioned in reference to Leatherface in other movies, having seen the way he kills, his size, his ability to communicate, and his mannerisms, that Bud was the one that was going to grow up to be Leatherface.
BUT GUESS WHAT!?
Nope, instead we find out that Jackson is the one nicknamed Jed (BECAUSE YEAH, OKAY SURE) and he has severe anger issues that are untapped, now his rage has been enhanced because he blames the cops for killing Bud and Lizzy for trying to get the cop’s attention in the first place.
As Jackson and Lizzy take off in the cop car, they’re flanked by more officers and in a sudden turn of events, Jackson’s face gets all fucked up thanks to a stray bullet, and he loses the ability to speak. I guess he also gets some kind of brain damage too? Because from that point on he walks around like a zombie.
The car flips and Jackson and Lizzy are kidnapped by Hartman who then does the thing all Hartman’s are oddly good at doing; stringing up their victims to be tortured.
We’re then taken back to Verna’s house where the dirty cop tells her that Jed is being held hostage in the barn by Hartman. She obviously heads there, saves Jed, and keeps both Lizzy and Hartman as prisoners.
We then watch Verna literally sew Jed’s face back together, (possibly explaining the needle thing from the last movie?) and see that he’s nonverbal and possibly now affected mentally. As all this is going down, we watch as Lizzy and Hartman wake up in a room of the Sawyer house. I suppose this next thing happens because even though Lizzy just watched this guy tie up her potential boyfriend, was kidnapped by him, and has now been taken hostage as a prisoner with him, she’s still the Mary Sue character of this film and for whatever reason, helps the two of them escape and make their way through the Sawyer house.
Obviously they don’t get far. Hartman is soon tied up and in a scene that was probably the best use of gore I’ve seen in this entire series, Hartman attempts to protect himself from the chainsaw blade with his hands. That doesn’t go well, but it does give Lizzy the chance she needs to run. For the first time, running is a good idea, but she’s soon located running through the woods and because of all the terrible things he thinks she’s done, because Jed is running on adrenaline at this point, and because she calls his mother crazy (which I don’t get because Verna was Heather’s grandma, making her the daughter of Verna’s daughter. If Leatherface was Heather’s cousin, he would have had to be the kid of one of Verna’s other children, but hey, incest makes this weird, maybe I’m missing something), Lizzy’s head is soon detached from her body and becomes Jed’s first kill with a chainsaw.
As the final song of the film plays, we watch Jed make his first mask. I’m assuming it’s an amalgam of Hartman and Lizzy parts, but to be truthful it looks more like a Michael Meyers mask than anything…
Year Released/Director: 2017, Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury
Rating: For most of this movie, I was really invested, but then the twist happened and it got knocked down a few pegs for making me so upset. Overall, I think I’ll give it an “Um…”
How I Would Have Done It: Not sure you really need this part of the review considering I let you have most of my opinions on how this movie should have gone in the “thoughts before I hit play section.” However, when I wrote that I hadn’t considered that the Sawyers were an established family at the time. I thought Drayton was the head and that something traumatic would have had to happen to him for his entire life to become about winning BBQ awards with his human meat recipes. I really wanted more than what this movie gave me in the way of getting inside Leatherface’s head. The story could have been equally tragic if more focus had been allotted to the relationship between Leatherface, his father, and his brother.
Thoughts from Interviews:
I love when I stumble across behind the scenes documentaries that are likely the features included on the DVD. Thankfully I found one for this film on YouTube thanks to user David Ofc!
Turns out the directors were French and very excited to be making an American movie. Also, the actors were all British but put on American accents for the film.
The reason the movie was so successful as far as a followable plot goes, was the fact that the directors were completely in sync the entire time and were also incredibly organized and experienced. It seems like this is one of the few movies in which the directors had a vision but also allowed the actors to do their own thing to bring the story to life in a different way. Doesn’t seem like it recreated the terrible filming conditions of the first one like several of the sequels have before this one.
In an interview I found with the directors courtesy of Red Carpet News TV, the directors state that they wanted the audience to be able to watch this without having seen the first film or know the characters because the first movie was such a masterpiece it could never be recreated.
I have a slight issue with that personally because if someone were to have watched this before the entire twist would have fallen flat. They wouldn’t have cared that Bud died and the short amount of time the movie spends on Jackson’s character wouldn’t be enough to justify him becoming a murderer.
In another interview courtesy of the BUILD Series channel, Sam Strike, the guy that plays Jackson/Jed, he talks about the cinematography and how he prepared for the role of Leatherface.
“There were aspects that I wanted to take from them, just out of respect. He originated that role and respect to the audience ’cause that’s what they responded to. But I didn’t try to weigh myself down too much with copying, I wanted to try and do something original that was my own. I did try to stack on the weight before we started shooting because as a horror fan and as somebody that wants things to be believable, I don’t want to see a skinny guy play Leatherface. So like, I was eating a ton of bread and stuff, I was just trying to eat as much as I could…to feel physically capable. Chainsaws in reality are very heavy, especially ones that were manufactured back in the 50’s and 60’s, you know?….Leatherface, you look at him and he looks like he could take your head off with a slap. I wanted to feel that way.”
At one point, Sam refers to Leatherface as a “rage filled monster” and that made me sad. It only reinforces the fact that this movie messed with my baby to simply appeal to what the public expected.
I found another interview from the same BUILD Series channel with Sam Strike and Lili Taylor who you might recognize as the kick ass mother from the Conjuring, a movie that came out in 2013, just a few years before her role in this film.
Probably the coolest thing anyone has said in these interviews, bar anything that has passed through Gunnar Hansen’s lips, is how this interviewer described the first movie.
“The first one is so beautiful, it’s 16mm, it’s grainy…it’s that kind of beautiful thing where the filmmaker has talent, but doesn’t really know the rules yet so everything is kind of oddly broken while still working.”
Then we find out that Sam Strike’s favorite film in the series is either the second or the fourth one so….that’s where he’s coming from.
As the interview continued, they took questions from the audience. I would like to pause this review right now to introduce you to the person I hope to become in 5 years time; someone with enough confidence to dread short hair, wear a necklace made entirely out of safetypins, and a ring the size of his entire fist. This, my friends, is what happiness looks like:
As I was watching the behind the scenes documentary, I noticed that the kid that plays Bud looked REALLY familiar. I’m not sure if it was the angle of the camera or what, but it turns out he was also in Game of Thrones as young Hodor!
The movie was filmed in Bulgaria for budgetary reasons and was the first shout outside of the US.
Most of the effects are practical and even affected the actors in a way because it wasn’t something the added in digitally afterwards.
Tobe Hooper was actually an executive producer on this film. It was the last movie he was ever a part of.
This is the most recent film in the TCM series.
Summary: I was mad about the twist because the film had done more work to set up Bud than it had to set up Jackson. We barely learn anything about the guy besides the fact that he’s extremely manipulative and doesn’t really have much of a goal. I don’t even know that he wants to go home considering he kept saying that Bud was his only family even though the Sawyers were still around and looking for him.
Mostly, I feel as if the entire movie was focused on the twist rather than where Leatherface truly originated. It took a story that could have been so detailed, so vibrant, and made it just like the others; a gore fest with uninteresting characters that don’t do anything but replay the tropes that the original film put into motion.
What bothers me the most about how this movie was handled though is that it took something that was so deeply ingrained in Leatherface; that he was a mentally ill person with a heart of gold that was destroyed emotionally by his environment and how he was raised and took out the element of how that might have formed. There is a much smaller window of time between the age of 18 and the age he was in the movie (I’m assuming somewhere around 35/40) than there would have been had Jed been born with deficiencies and his family, thus far all cut from the same cloth, would have had to manage that and still raise him up as an important member of their family, just with his own quirks and personality.
It’s almost like it was laughed at that someone born mentally ill can be praised for their natural born talents (even if those talents include the delicate art of making face lampshades). It’s like they were trying to tell the audience that the Leatherface from the first movie was a rage filled monster with a desire to kill even as he’s staring out of the window to his home, having a panic attack that his house is under attack by strangers he doesn’t have the capacity to understand. In this film, he’s some white boy teenager that’s been beaten down by society and has a right to be angry because everyone that isn’t blood related has left him in some way.
I did appreciate the fact that the movie wasn’t low quality in any way. The effects were outstanding, the acting was really strong, and even though not all of the characters were three dimensional, that was no fault of the actors, they infused how they felt about their characters and the backstories they may have made for themselves into furtive glances towards one another, certain pitches of screams, body language, etc. That was probably the best part of the film besides the fact that this was the first, besides the last for the most part, that didn’t follow the pattern of the other films.
It broke the mold, essentially and sucked me into the story more which I really appreciated, especially at this point, I don’t know that I can watch another helpless girl run through the woods.